Turkish targeting focuses on infrastructure in northeast Syria

Soldiers from the Turkish Armed Forces (Edited by Enab Baladi)

Soldiers from the Turkish Armed Forces (Edited by Enab Baladi)

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Four days ago, Turkey launched an aerial bombardment campaign that targeted various regions in northern Syria and Iraq but concentrated mainly on the areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration (the political umbrella for the Syrian Democratic Forces) in northeastern Syria.

The escalation primarily targeted infrastructure, including power generation stations, negatively affecting the lives of civilians in the region. Meanwhile, Turkey announced that its campaign aimed to disrupt the resources of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey.

While the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) ignores Turkish accusations that it is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, exploiting the service and economic resources in northeastern Syria, the Turkish Ministry of Defense reiterated through official statements that its campaign targets “the PKK.”

Infrastructure targeting

As Turkey targets what it says are supply and production lines of the PKK in northeastern Syria, residents of the region live in a state of anxiety due to fears of losing the few basic services in the area.

Enab Baladi’s correspondents reported that the region had one hour of electricity through the main power lines before the escalation. However, it is currently at risk of complete cut off as residents rely on ampere (private power generators) subscriptions.

Akram Sulaiman, Joint President of the Energy Office in the Jazira canton, told the local ARTA FM radio on Monday, January 15, that the Turkish attacks cut off electricity to nine towns in Jazira, as well as half the city of Qamishli and 2,232 villages.

He explained that the Turkish Air Force targeted power transformers in four main conversion stations with seven strikes in the areas of al-Derbasiya, Amuda, Qamishli, and al-Qahtaniya.

For its part, AANES said that Turkey carried out 73 attacks on its controlled areas in northeastern Syria, targeting villages and service facilities.

It added that seven airstrikes hit oil stations in five locations, including the al-Suwaydiya station, with more than ten missiles during an airstrike, causing significant damage to the station, along with other attacks scattered across Autonomous Administration areas.

An official source from the Water Directorate in Qamishli city (who withheld his name as he is not authorized to speak to the media without prior permission) previously told Enab Baladi that Qamishli is served by three water stations: al-Hilaliya with 51 wells, al-Owaija with ten wells, and al-Jiq Jiq with five wells.

He added that recent bombardments resulted in power outages at the water feeding stations in Qamishli, except for al-Hilaliya station, which relies on diesel generators for electricity, while the rest of the stations and eastern water wells in al-Hasakah province went out of service.

A petroleum engineer working in the Rmelan oil fields east of al-Hasakah told Enab Baladi that the al-Suwaydiya gas plant was completely out of service, while oil supplies stopped due to the interruption of the main power network that feeds the pumps.

The engineer, who withheld his name for not being authorized to speak to the media, noted that some oil wells that do not require pumps are still operating in the region.

Non-surprising escalation

On October 4, 2023, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hakan Fidan, stated that the perpetrators of the attack on the Directorate of Security in Ankara had come from Syria and received training in Turkey.

The minister added during a press conference with the Foreign Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that all infrastructure and energy facilities belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Iraq and Syria would be “legitimate targets” from now on for Turkish security forces and intelligence elements.

He called on any third party to stay away from the facilities and elements of the PKK and YPG, saying: “The response of our armed forces to the terrorist attack will be very clear, and the parties involved will sorely regret such an act.”

The Turkish minister’s statements came after a bomb attack occurred in the same month in the Kızılay area in the center of the capital, Ankara, which includes a number of government buildings, including the Ministry of Interior and Parliament. It was followed by a shooting in the same area, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party claimed responsibility for it.

According to the Turkish Ministry of Interior, subsequent DNA analysis showed that one of the attackers was Hasan Oğuz, a.k.a. “Kanivar Erdal,” a member of one of the branches of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the umbrella organization including armed parties such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Based on the same analysis, it was determined that the second attacker was Ozkan Sahin, a member of the same organization, according to a statement from the Turkish Ministry of Interior.

What is the objective?

In an analysis previously published by the Jusoor for Studies center at the beginning of Turkey’s strategy shift in selecting targets in northeastern Syria, the escalation was considered “convenient for both the United States and Turkey.”

The analysis attributed Washington’s silence on the escalation to its desire for Ankara’s approval for Sweden’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as pressure on the Democratic Union Party (the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) to return to the Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue, which was launched at its invitation in 2020.

On the other hand, Turkey wants to ensure a minimum of undermining the capabilities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and its funding sources, as well as preventing its project to turn SDF-controlled areas in Syria into an “operational base” for its elements and activities in transferring, training, arming, and recuperating, or turning these areas into an investment project to secure steady financial resources to fund the party’s activities.

The analysis added that Turkey seems to realize that this form of escalation represents a temporary alternative to its inability to carry out a new ground military operation in Syria and that targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party cadres and leadership has not been successful in dismantling its control system in eastern Syria or in drying up its funding there.

The Kurdish affairs specialist at Jusoor for Studies center, Anas Shawakh, told Enab Baladi that despite Turkey’s impact on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s activities in the region, it has not been able to undermine its operations in Syria and stop its targeting of Turkish territory.

The researcher added that Turkey found itself before the choice of striking this “operational base” to prevent the Kurdistan Workers’ Party from threatening its national security and undermining its ability to move.

As a partial result, Turkey is attempting to impose a state of instability in the region to undermine oil and gas resources and increase popular pressure, or from the International Coalition led by the United States, on the Autonomous Administration to break its association with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, as the link has become costly to the region and its stability, according to the researcher.

Since October 2023, Turkish targets in Syria have taken a new trajectory, focusing on service locations and infrastructure in areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration in Syria. The frequency of these targets rises and falls based on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s movements in northern Iraq or inside Turkey.

 

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